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Moody v. Board of Trustees of University of Alabama

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

July 13, 2017

KAREN MOODY, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, and ANDRE DAVIS, individually and in his official capacity. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Karen Moody brings this nine count complaint for age, gender, and race discrimination and retaliation against the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama and its Director of Parking and Transportation Andre Davis, individually and in his official capacity, pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See generally doc. 1. The court has for consideration Defendants' partial motions to dismiss, docs. 9; 10, which are fully briefed, docs. 15; 16, and ripe for review. For the reasons stated below, the Board's motion, doc. 9, is due to be granted[1], and Davis's motion, doc. 19, is due to be granted in part.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         Moody, a Caucasian female, was employed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (“UAB”) in parking and transportation services from October 2000 until April 2014. Doc. 1 at 3-4. Moody held the position of Manager of Parking and Transportation Services at the time of her termination. Id. at 3. While still employed, Moody filed a lawsuit for age and gender discrimination challenging the selection of Andre Davis, who was “much younger and less qualified than Moody, ” as the Director of Parking and Transportation. Id. at 3-4. Moody subsequently amended her lawsuit to add Davis as a defendant, alleging that Davis retaliated against her and made “racially derogatory comments.” Id. at 4. The parties resolved this lawsuit in November 2014.

         A restructuring in the Parking and Transportation Services Department resulted in the elimination of management level employees, including Moody. Moody maintains that she is the only affected employee UAB did not transfer or move to a different position, despite assurances that Moody would “receive priority and assistance from UAB to be placed into a different, safe position on campus.” Id. For over “a year and a half” after her layoff, Moody applied unsuccessfully for approximately fifty vacant positions. Id. at 4-5. Moody received no call-backs or interviews, and UAB allegedly “failed to provide any meaningful assistance to Moody.” Id. at 4-5. Allegedly, UAB hired less qualified individuals outside of Moody's protected classes (age, race and gender) or sometimes opted to outsource, close, or leave the positions vacant instead of hiring Moody. Id. at 5-6. When Moody contacted Human Resources, an employee told Moody “that she should look outside of UAB for employment because she had ‘burned bridges' by filing discrimination charges and a lawsuit, ” that her age hurt her prospects because “she was fast approaching retirement, ” and that Davis dissuaded them from rehiring her to all available positions. Id. at 6.

         A year after Moody's layoff, Davis recreated Moody's position. Despite knowing that Moody was still actively looking for employment, Davis promoted a less-qualified, male employee, under the age of forty. Id. at 5. A few months later, UAB hired or placed in another department an African-American employee, who lost his position in the same layoffs that affected Moody. Id. at 6.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In her complaint, Moody pleads claims against Davis in both his official and individual capacities for age and gender discrimination pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment through section 1983 (Counts II and IV), race discrimination pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and section 1981, both through section 1983 (Counts VI and VII), and retaliation pursuant to section 1981 through section 1983 (Count IX). See generally doc. 1. Davis has moved to dismiss all claims against him, arguing that he is entitled to Eleventh Amendment Immunity for the official capacity claims and qualified immunity for the individual capacity claims. Doc. 10 at 2 n.1, 6. The court addresses these contentions below.

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         “[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office . . . . As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself.” Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Accordingly, “[u]nder the Eleventh Amendment, state officials sued for damages in their official capacity are immune from suit in federal court.” Jackson v. Ga. Dep't of Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575 (11th Cir. 1994); see also Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (stating that “an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity”). Therefore, “a suit by private parties seeking to impose liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). As such, to the extent Moody pleads claims for relief seeking monetary damages against Davis in his official capacity, because “[o]fficial capacity actions seeking [monetary] damages are deemed to be against the entity of which the officer is an agent, ” Cross v. State of Ala., State Dep't of Mental Health & Mental Retardation, 49 F.3d 1490, 1503 (11th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks omitted), these claims are due to be dismissed.

         However, as Moody correctly points out, see doc. 15 at 2-5, “official-capacity suits against state officials are permissible . . . under the Eleventh Amendment when the plaintiff seeks prospective equitable relief to end continuing violations of federal law.” Lane v. Cent. Ala. Cmty. College, 772 F.3d 1349, 1351 (11th Cir. 2014) (emphasis in original) (quotation marks omitted). “[R]equests for reinstatement constitute prospective injunctive relief that fall within the scope of the Ex parte Young exception and, thus, are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.” Id. Indeed, as to the prospective injunctive relief Moody requests - namely, reinstatement, see doc. 1 at 15-16, Davis concedes that ...


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